I attended a presentation by Yale Center for Business & the Environment  Tues, Jan 5th, 2021, at 4:00 pm.

Author Marissa King is an expert in social network theory. According to her new book, there are three main kinds of participation in social networks. In professional networks, people usually rely on one of these as their primary “type,” (and some may have secondary types). All three are necessary for a network to be capable of bringing about social or cultural change. 

Okay, let’s go from right to left. Because, why not?

Convening networks are densely connected and the individuals who populate them are mostly alike. They generally enjoy high levels of trust and reciprocity within the network, but can be hard to penetrate because of covert norms and coded or insider communication, for example, acronyms and other professional jargon. Typical Conveners have many friends and colleagues who are also connected to each other, forming a dense network. They possess knowledge of who to go to for what and tend to demonstrate progressive advancement in a single domain overtime. 

Brokering networks are capable of linking two or more convening networks to add capacity and value for all concerned. They possess enough cultural insight in two or more domains to be able to frame issues, present ideas and gain buy-in from people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. As professionals, Brokers are inclined to empathize with others enough to understand how the world looks from and feels from their points of view. Typically, they are skilled communicators and diplomats. Brokers’ contributions are essential to building coalitions. They know how to leverage and create value from what they already know, but their careers do not tend to follow a straight path. 

Expansionist networks are good at connecting vast territories at scale. They possess a macro-level – or, even a meta – lens for viewing the world and its networked relationships. In the professional realm, individuals with a primarily Expansionist style are good at recognizing emergent possibilities, and they like to introduce people who would never otherwise ordinarily meet. Because they function to randomize networks, they occasionally add extraordinary value through striking “discoveries.” They tend to stay on top of trends and see the road up ahead before others. 

I gained five main takeaways from the conversation between King and Vincent Stanley of Patagonia.

  1. It’s good to know your own primary networking style. For example, I’m a Broker, so it’s natural for me to take time to write these notes and want others to gain access to the author’s perspective. 
  2. It’s good to have friends and colleagues with all three styles. Especially if you’re tackling an ambitious project. 
  3. As a leader or manager, you can avoid difficulties by relying on others for what they’re naturally good at. Instead of forcing them into a box, build on their strengths.
  4. It’s possible to design a network as one of these types. Think about what the business needs are, and then save time and effort by following the correct pattern. 
  5. Before any professional networking event, take a moment to think about your goals and be intentional about which kind of person you want to meet, or which kind of organization you’d like to access. This will help lead you to the Convener, Broker or Expansionist who can match just the right energy for the moment at hand. 

In brief, we are social creatures and so a large part of our success is due not to the size but the quality and structure of the networks in which we participate. Thanks to this book, while networking, I will keep a clearer picture in mind of a connected world full of trust, reciprocity, cultural understanding, deep and accurate knowledge, and far-flung possibilities.

I find King’s research to be both fascinating and encouraging. Her overall message is that with these three different styles at your command, the world becomes much smaller, and therefore your dreams much closer than they appear!

Elinor Slomba

Verge Arts Group

Verge…it’s what’s about to happen.